Plant-Based Protein: A Sustainable Food Staple

By David Pezzullo, executive vice president, Worldwide Operations
November 23, 2016

 

At the core of our Herbalife Nutrition Philosophy is our Formula 1 Healthy Meal Nutritional Shake, which is powered by protein and more specifically, sustainable plant-based protein. We are proud to be a major consumer of soy protein isolate and other plant-based proteins. An average of four million Herbalife Nutrition protein shakes made with plant protein are consumed every day. This adds up to 1.53 billion servings worldwide in 2015. Plant proteins are a key nutritional building block in our meal replacement shakes and protein shakes, and we see plant proteins playing a major role in feeding the world’s growing population in the coming decades.

The future is clear, but even today, consuming plant-based protein is something that’s already occurring widely around the world. In the past decade, consumers have been seeking out high protein foods (up 40% compared to a decade ago) and that trend looks to continue into the foreseeable future. In a study conducted in 2014, consumer awareness of plant proteins (including soy) was at or above 60% and half agree that proteins from plant sources are better.

In addition to their role in feeding the world population, from a sustainability standpoint, what you may not know is that plant protein uses significantly less water and energy, and creates much less pollution, than it takes to produce a similar amount of animal-based protein.

Growing Population, Growing Demand

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, world food production will need to increase by an estimated 70% to feed everyone alive by 2050. To feed everyone in the developing world, food production will need to double while overcoming a “perfect storm” of rapid population growth plus the declining per capita availability of land, water and energy resources. The American Society of Clinical Nutrition reaffirms that position by stating that worldwide shortages of cropland, fresh water, and energy resources already require most people to live on a plant-based diet.

Three Key Sustainability Benefits of Plant Protein

In addition to the nutrition and health benefits of plant-based protein*, the environmental advantages are clear:

  1. Efficient water usage – Isolated soy protein (ISP) uses much less water (38 liters per kg of protein produced) than pork or beef (more than 1,600 liters of water per kg).
  2. Small carbon footprint – ISP production creates eight to 80 times less pollutants, including harmful greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane, than beef (2.4 kg compared to 178 kg) and other animal-based proteins.
  3. Efficient land usage – ISP requires 8 m2 of land per kg of protein compared to 1,311 m2 of land for beef.

And the momentum is building as Wall Street is following Main Street in the sustainability movement. Reuters recently reported that a group of investors are urging food companies to shift from meat to plants to reduce environmental and health risks. To meet increasing demand, the plant protein industry is experiencing a rush of innovation, entrepreneurship and technology.

How Herbalife Nutrition is Leading

Herbalife Nutrition is contributing to the innovation boom. We are a huge consumer of soy protein isolate. Our Formula 1 shake is made with soy protein sourced from qualified farmers and suppliers in America’s heartland. We also engage and collaborate with world-class suppliers. These partnerships allow us to stay at the leading edge of protein research. Our partners are held to our industry leading standards of quality and integrity. We continue to develop and nurture these relationships that allow us to leverage their science, research and production competency. We are already looking to the future with research and application of other new types of plant proteins to ensure that we are meeting and exceeding changing customer needs.

*Slides 13, 15, 16, 21 and 22 – Dupont-Herbalife sustainability deck, Muñoz and Schmidt, 2015. Life Cycle Screening of Animal and Vegetable derived Protein Sources. Prepared by 2-0 LCA Consultants for DuPont Nutrition Biosciences ApS.

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